Sure physical intimacy, love, and affection are requisites of a healthy relationship; emotional intimacy arguably is of paramount significance in maintaining and nourishing them, the lack of which can not only be detrimental to the relationship but can also pose a threat to the mental well-being of one or all of the partners involved.
The definition of intimacy in relationships is often confined to sexual relations, but there is much more to it than just that. Connecting to one another on a spiritual and psychological level is just as important as any other component of a relationship.
To understand what emotional intimacy is and what role it plays in a relationship, along with its signs, causes, and coping strategies, read on below.
What is Emotional Intimacy?
To define in the simplest words, emotional intimacy is the connection you share with your intimate partner on a spiritual level. To some, it may seem like the most intimate you can get with your partner is when you’re physically intimate, but the intimacy of two minds sharing something akin to that physical intimacy can be an unparalleled feeling.
A relationship is the coming together of two lives. It would only be fair to be completely truthful to each other with no secrets and lies whatsoever. Emotional intimacy can give you that complete, unmitigated understanding and sensitivity that is so important for the nourishment of a healthy relationship.
To sum it up, what is emotional intimacy? It is the rawest and the truest bits of you exposed to your partner and vice versa. It is the ease of being able to share the deepest and the darkest parts of you: your dreams, fears, aspirations, and traumas. It is somewhere you can be candid and your true authentic selves without fear of judgment on either part.
This kind of uninhibited melding of two lives is the core and the foundation of every thriving relationship. It provides the perfect grounds to cultivate trust, understanding, boundaries, respect, affection, honesty, communication, and the ability to feel comfortable even while vulnerable in front of your significant other.
Lack of Emotional Intimacy Between Partners and Mental Health
Physical connections are much easier to build and maintain than emotional connections. The state of your mental health can be greatly affected by the kind of connection you share with your partner. Similarly, your mental well-being can majorly impact your relationship with your partner.
A healthy relationship requires a foundation built on trust, communication, honesty, affection, understanding, and respect, all of which are key components of emotional intimacy. A lack of these qualities, or inability to encourage these attributes can result in an unhappy, unsatisfactory relationship that does not fulfill its purpose.
Therefore, a lack of proper emotional bonding between partners can disturb the dynamics of a relationship, leaving it unstable and susceptible to damage. Several studies conducted on the factors impacting romantic relationships suggest people involved in unstable relationships are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation and disconnection, and suicidal impulses.
On the other hand, partners involved in stable relationships display a decline in psychological distress and mental health problems, indicating high-quality relationships that value emotional attachment and intimacy just as much as physical bonding are linked to lower stress and depression levels, and higher self-esteem, and happiness.
5 Signs Your Relationship Lacks Emotional Intimacy
Do you often feel like something is missing in your otherwise very successful relationship? Does it feel like your relationship is confined to only the physical elements of it? Do you wish you shared a deeper connection with your partner; to be intimately involved and familiar with your partner on a psychological and spiritual level, wishing your relationship to transcend the material aspects of it sometimes?
This may indicate that you and your partner lack emotional intimacy. Here are 5 major signs that indicate a lack of emotional intimacy in relationships:
- You feel lonely and disconnected
- You feel misunderstood and judged
- There’s an imbalance of communication
- You’re lacking physical intimacy
- There’s a lack of support
What Causes a Lack of Emotional Bonding in Relationships?
In a relationship, establishing and maintaining emotional intimacy can be a daunting task, especially because it challenges not only your partner but also yourself to face your fears and entails stepping out of your comfort zone. There can be several reasons why you or your partner seem to be having a difficult time building that special bond. Here are some common reasons that may be hindering the process of establishing the emotional intimacy you find lacking in your relationship, including:
- Lack of Self-awareness
- Fear of Judgement
- Trust Issues
- Lack of Understanding
- Poor Listening Skills
- Poor Self-Esteem
- Rough Relationship Experiences in the Past
- Experiencing Emotional Abuse and Neglect
Tips on How to Regain Emotional Intimacy in a Relationship
Lack of emotional intimacy is something that demands to be acknowledged. No matter how hard you try to make it work without it, it will make sure you know you’re lacking it. After a while, you may even start craving it, because, without it, your relationship feels incomplete. Ironically, the idea of building emotional intimacy is never really explained to you when you’re exploring relationships, so you find yourself unable to do anything as you watch your relationship go downhill.
Don’t worry though, there are several ways to rebuild the lost connection of your souls, or, if you wish to learn to establish it from scratch, here are some coping strategies and tips to overcome this hurdle:
Be Supportive of Each Other
Support is a key ingredient in any relationship. Your spouse is supposed to be your support system and vice versa in times of need. We all go through hard times during which it is natural to feel needy and desire support from your partner. Emotional support is all about providing affection, reassurance, and encouragement to your partner when you feel like they have had a bad day.
A lack of emotional support can make your partner feel unsafe and undesired in your relationship and it can have detrimental effects. Emotional support builds trust, respect, and security in a relationship, allowing each member to feel whole, knowing that they can rely on each other no matter what the situation.
Don’t Shy Away From Being Candid
A relationship where you or your partner do not feel a hundred percent comfortable with sharing ideas, concepts, thoughts, and secrets with each other defies the very concept of a relationship. A healthy relationship entails finding solace in one another and speaking your mind out without fear or hesitation.
Constantly worrying that you being candid about your thoughts might jeopardize your relationship, or fear that your partner might judge you for your past can harm the bond that is holding your relationship together. Each partner needs to be him or herself around the other without an ounce of fear. At the same time, it is important to respect each other’s decisions, values, and thoughts. However, of course, constructive criticism and advice should always be welcomed.
Work on Being a Good Listener
A lot of relationships dwindle and lose their charm when one or the other partners feel like they are not being listened to. Nobody wants a wall for a partner. At the same time, nobody wants a rigid teacher or coach for a partner as well who has nothing but criticisms and unwarranted advice to hand out every time their partner shares something with them. Sometimes, all one needs is a listener, who would let you rant about anything and everything without judging you or offering unsolicited advice.
There’s a lot that goes into listening. It entails paying attention, observing, asking valid questions, observing the issue, and then, if asked, chipping in with appropriate advice, or helping your partner come up with solutions for their issue if they need you.
Ditch Movie Night for Deep Conversations With Partner
Sure movie nights are fun and great for the prosperity of a relationship, but every once in a while, ditching movie nights for conversation nights can be equally as great. With most couples working throughout the day or taking care of kids or other chores, spending quality time with your partner is often only ever confined to movie nights. Again, it’s great for the whole bonding process as well, but communication is one of the most important ingredients for building emotional intimacy.
Relaxing with your partner to keep company and having deep conversations about anything and everything; your secrets, your fears, your weaknesses, your strengths can give your partner a lot of insight into your thought process and mindset. It can allow each of you to be able to do what your partner needs you to do at a certain time. It can allow you to read each other and be able to be each other’s strengths if need be.
Bottom line is, emotional intimacy is the foundation of every healthy relationship, without which, the spirit of your relationship can be dimmed, which is why it is crucial for couples to understand exactly what emotional intimacy is and why it is so important in relationships. Physical intimacy can only sustain relationships for so long until the lack of emotional support, which includes trust, compassion, communication, honesty, understanding, etc. results in significant damage.